The Danger of MLM in Church

Written by The Scribbler

This article is designed to show church leaders of all denominations how the recruiting practices of multi-level marketing companies like Mary Kay are stumbling blocks to the spiritual growth and faith of their parishioners. I encourage you to e-mail this article to the leaders of your chosen house of worship (anonymously if you wish), along with a link to pinktruth.com should they desire to learn more. 

“This is serious,” the pastor’s wife said sternly. “I know lots of godly women who do Mary Kay. They’re not going to Hell, are they?”

“No,” I replied.

She continued, her voice escalating with each question. “They’re not sinning by doing Mary Kay, are they? They’re not doing anything wrong by being in Mary Kay, are they?”

I didn’t take the pastor’s wife’s words personally; deep down, I knew that the mixture of shock and standoffishness she’d projected stemmed from a simple lack of knowledge. I explained to her that I was writing a book on Mary Kay and had discovered a practice that was sickeningly far from anything Christ would endorse. I added that while women were not going to Hell or sinning by being in Mary Kay, they were actively engaging in something that had great potential to cripple or God forbid, shut down their spiritual growth. The practice I was referring to was recruiting.

Also known as “team building” and “sharing the opportunity,” nearly every aspect of recognition and advancement in Mary Kay hinges on recruiting. No pink Cadillacs are driven, no promotions are awarded, and no commission checks are gained unless beauty consultants convince other women to join the fold. One Mary Kay training document reminds its readers of the importance of recruiting over sales: “Sales is the instant money, but recruiting is your future and your retirement!”

Since critical factors like one’s future and retirement depend on one’s recruitment of others, one may be able to see how easily recruiting can be corrupted. Think about it: a single “No, thanks, I’m not interested,” could pulverize a consultant’s chances of getting promoted. Therefore, in a frenzied attempt to avert such outcomes, a tool is used that works to keep the “yes” answers coming: the recruiting script. This is where Mary Kay’s pink rivers turn very dark.

Written by individuals in leadership positions and varying widely in content and delivery, recruiting scripts are designed to overcome any and every objection a woman may have regarding Mary Kay. Their deceptive and manipulative tactics include (and are definitely not limited to) the following:

  • Emotional appeals/body language: “Look your prospect right in the eyes. Touch her arm. Have a SINCERE look on your face and FEEL that sincerity in your heart, and say with conviction, “You’d be great doing what I do!”
  • Guilt: “I believe Mary Kay comes into our lives when we need it the most. How long can you afford NOT to make money? What if something happened to your husband – could you support your family?”
  • The “Hail Mary”: Used when a target won’t budge and you needed a recruit yesterday. “No matter what your potential recruit answers, the magic words are, “That’s exactly why you need Mary Kay!” Whether you have too much money or too little, whether you have ten children or a single Chihuahua; whether you’re as shaggy as Cookie Monster or bald as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, it doesn’t matter: “That’s exactly why you need Mary Kay!”
  • The “Your Husband’s a Shallow Brute” Technique: Suppose a woman shows an interest in doing Mary Kay, but hasn’t had a chance to discuss the idea, the $100 startup fee, or the initial inventory order, (which can spike as high as $4800) with her husband. According to this script, some circumventing and a bit of womanly wiles are all that’s needed: “Let’s fill out the paperwork, get your check, and I’ll hold it for a day until you have had time to talk to your husband. I’ll bet with your charm, you usually can persuade him to your way of thinking, right?

It pains my heart to know that there are thousands upon thousands of women – women endeavoring to put God first in their lives and walk out the teachings of Jesus Christ – willingly participating in these silver-tongued shenanigans. These beauty consultants are being reassured by their leaders that their recruiting efforts are “enriching women’s lives,” and many are told that what they are doing is fulfilling God’s plan for their lives. After all, Mary Kay’s motto is “God First, Family Second, Career Third,” so women who join do so believing that their relationship with God will flourish as they recruit women and to a lesser extent, sell product. Oh, if only this were the case!

Attempting to put God’s stamp of approval on an entity that schools its women in manipulation is a dangerous game. Resolving to recruit others in their endless quest for recognition and financial freedom, Christian women in Mary Kay may eventually find that they’re experiencing confusion and condemnation; things they believe to be coming from the God they serve, especially when “valley experiences” occur. Consider the gravity of this former Mary Kay director’s testimony:

I heard over and over how women would die and would have to face God and Mary Kay Ash. I started questioning Mary Kay; but since I have blended Mary Kay and God, I was, in fact, questioning God. Why is God punishing me? Why would He not allow me success in Mary Kay? What did I do wrong? I am going to hell for sure.

If that isn’t heartbreaking enough, let me show you what happens when confusion is ignored, allowing it to pervert a woman’s faith by perverting her perception of God. Chew on this motivational e-mail sent to consultants via a woman in top leadership; “Seminar” is Mary Kay’s annual awards bash and the pinnacle of every good consultant’s year:

God has been waiting, very patiently, for you to put on a “Give me more, you can’t touch this, you SO need to meet me” attitude that will absolutely dazzle Him…He will want you to account for yourself. Seminar is the place where He can nod his head and say, “You’ve done well.” Or can you see Him shaking his head in disappointment…again?

That blatant twisting of doctrine should make you want to twist together a whip and flip over a few temple tables, friend. Despite its wholesome, bubbly, god-fearing façade, Mary Kay Cosmetics is little more than a whitewashed tomb; gleaming on the outside, full of dead men’s bones within. I implore you as a fellow Christian to educate yourself and your congregation regarding this prowling pink lion – the spiritual maturity of your women depends on it.

13 Comments

  1. BestDecision

    I started to think God was upset with me, too, and that I wasn’t a good enough person for my business to boom like others I saw. I bought “The Prayer of Jabez”, memorized it, said it multiple times a day, bought and read Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and any book anyone mentioned at Leadership, Seminar, or on a conference call that “changed things” for them. I saw countless, daily usage of scripture in emails I got from various people. I literally began to believe I wasn’t praying enough or wasn’t Godly enough!

    While some say Mary Kay lifted them and gave them more confidence, I was torn down and had LESS by the time I left.

    And the irony? These so-called “Godly” women that had preached and prayed so many times are the same ones that ignored me the moment they heard I resigned and left. So much for “Do unto others…”

  2. JanRD

    Excellent article, Scribbler! MK sounds less about enriching women’s lives and more about taking scripture out of context and guilt-tripping women into thinking they are disappointing God (and Mary Kay Ash from the great beyond). God first, family second, and career third sounds like a great bumper sticker, but is inconsistent with husband unawareness plan, “fake it “til you make it, and (my personal favorite), “Why, that’s exactly why you need Mary Kay!”

    BestDecision, it comes as no surprise that the prosperity gospel books were recommended at Leadership. I have yet to see a Bible verse that states God wants everyone to be wealthy and is disappointed with us when we don’t make an executive income, but there are those out there who preach otherwise.

  3. Exactly why traditional rules of etiquette proscribe discussion of sex,religion and politics in business and in mixed company such as a cocktail party or business function! Unfortunately, ‘rules of etiquette’ are unknown by too many that they ignore this sound rule which, when any of them are blatantly promoted as in the examples of this PT article or even in promotional materials will always exclude a percentage of potential prospects.
    I don’t think when Mary Kay began her business or even 10 years into it that she would have approved of that sales director’s email and would have thought it rather crass. Etiquette was clearly understood when she grew up and while Mary Kay did say her way is ‘God first, family second and business third’ the way she practiced it was in the beginning and onward with a strong etiquette sense of her faith and family life as personal matters with the ethics and morals of her private life exercised in her business life as largely unspoken tenets!
    Unless you want to exclusively market to a specific group and don’t mind diminishing your potential customer base I’d advise you to ‘be my guest!’ Otherwise to do so is an unnecessary practice that only serves to discriminate and exclude the desire to engage in commerce by those who don’t share your opinions and beliefs in sex, politics or religion!
    In closing, “The business of business is business!” -Milton Friedman

    1. MLM Radar

      I’m afraid I can’t agree with you about Mary Kay’s ethics. When you listen to all her slogans (“filling the tub with the drain open”) you can see she knew EXACTLY what evil she was doing to the women recruited into her company.

      Oh, Mary Kay was all about etiquette. But it was just a front for predatory envy-baiting. And it was a very effective tool to silence anyone who would question her.

      I have to think that J.K. Rowling had Mary Kay in mind when she created the Harry Potter’s pink nemesis, Dolores Umbridge: a pristine and proper skin over a heart that was rotten to the core.

      1. “Filling the tub with the drain open” reminds me of the sales analogy of “throwing Spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks” ‘had never heard that one as an MK slogan, but then I was only involved with it for a few months (90 business days) The comparison of J.K.Rowling’s character is apt and funny, thanks for the laughs! I am guessing though that in the earliest years MK operated pretty much in tune with the generally accepted etiquette, sales and marketing practices of post war America-alot has changed since then, if you watch old movies from the 1960’s through 1979’s it’s not too difficult to imagine.
        Seriously though, I wonder what the neighbor who had recruited me back in 1986 would say? She was born in 1927 and MK was born in 1918 (see: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Kay_Ash ) and certaunly had an independent way about her as far as being an MK distributor. She seemed to have a handle on her relationship with the company that was balanced.
        I know that when she recruited me after I’d been buying from her (so convenient to buy alot of the colors etc. as needed & it was always easy to buy from her because she never pressured me, just had stuff on her table that I could pick from when she got her orders) She told me she had been involved in MK since the early ’70’s and also sold Jafra ‘for pocket money’ (offering that opportunity too if I was interested and in full violation of either company’s distribitorship agreements no less, ha!) that’s why she was able to give me a bunch of the original style MK palettes and cases with some of the old Jafra too.
        When we went to the few MK meetings that we did I remember at one of them a visiting director came who used Bible quotes in her motivational speech. My neighbor asked me later if I was religious to which I said ‘No, does it matter?’ She said she was the same way and told me that some of the Red Jackets and Directors recruit mostly from their churches and have their own cliques and ‘don’t be surprised at some of the things they say and do, not all are that way.’
        She let me know ‘Not to let any of the directors (including her friend who tried to dissuade me from resigning & returning product as I did) pressure you into participation or buying what you feel uncomfortable with since ‘after all, you are an independent contractor’ and even attending meetings is optional!’

    2. Lazy Gardens

      the way she practiced it was in the beginning and onward with a strong etiquette sense of her faith and family life as personal matters with the ethics and morals of her private life exercised in her business life as largely unspoken tenets!

      They were not unspoken, they were flabby for lack of exercise.

      You know who used her Sunday School class list as a contact list for her direct sales business? Mary Kay Ash!

      You know who invented the fake contest to get sales and taught it to her reps? Mary Kay Ash!

      You know who invented the multiple levels with all the class distinctions to make women strive to get a tiny step of status? Mary Kay Ash!

      You know who invented the fake I-story to make her success look better? Mary Kay Ash!
      She never mentioned details that might have interfered with her carefully crafted public image as the plucky divorced single mother of three from the wrong side of the tracks who founded a cosmetics company to give women like her a chance. Somewhere, somehow, she managed to lose track of several of her five (or seven) husbands. Including her marriage to her boss at Stanley Home Products.

      http://lazygardens.blogspot.com/2015/04/mary-kay-ash-and-missing-marriages.html

      1. Interesting and enlightening. So many husbands along with a contrived facade! A ‘red flag’ in terms of something psychologically speaking of either or both she and those husbands and even many business partners being ‘dysfunctional!’
        ‘Wonder if there is anyone alive today (perhaps any children from all prior marriages) and even those from the beginnings of the cosmetics venture who can share with us the way she really was?
        http://izquotes.com/quotes-pictures/quote-insist-on-yourself-never-imitate-your-own-gift-you-can-present-every-moment-with-the-cumulative-ralph-waldo-emerson-342221.jpg

        1. Lazy Gardens

          Well, her son Richard … who was the one she sent to military school so she could “work her business”. But I don’t think he’s going to discuss the family skeletons when he’s benefiting still from the business and business model.

          1. Of course! I do wonder what his siblings Ben and Marylyn might be willing to share. ‘Thought until now that Richard was the only child!

            https://www.biography.com/people/mary-kay-ash-197044
            “Married three times, Ash had three children—Richard, Ben and Marylyn—by her first husband, J. Ben Rogers. The two divorced after Rogers returned from serving in World War II. Her second marriage to a chemist was brief; he died of a heart attack in 1963, just one month after the two had gotten married. She married her third husband, Mel Ash, in 1966, and the couple stayed together until Mel’s death in 1980.”

  4. cindylu

    When I found out our former choir director was a director in MK, I knew there was a potential conflict of interest. Recently there have been policies that do not provide phone numbers etc of our congregation. It is because of these mlm’s that Church’s are no longer giving out information on their members. I have heard MK Directors promote MK as some kind of organization that helps and empowers women. What I saw was recruiting single moms and taking their grocery money. I saw lying, deceit, ridiculous NSD I stories of so called rags to riches (The reality is that the NIQ had a husband who was well paid). The fact that MK pretended to be Christian is questionable. Seven husbands, not originally writing anything down about the tier system to Jackie Brown (so MK did not have to increase Jackie’s earnings), insisting Jackie get back to work after a difficult pregnancy or maybe lose her possible NSD status etc. The amount of deceptive scripts, constantly changing products at the expense of IBC’s etc, are far from Christian values i.e. the ten commandments: Idolatry (putting MK and financial gain ahead of all else), not stealing (my SD sabotaged some DIQ’s and then took their customer base) etc. Did MK actually own the full rights to the Hide Tanner story /Products? Either way, the way Jackie Brown (The very first director was treated by MK herself) does not seem remotely Christian. It seems the “Faith, Family and Career” was simply a pretty sounding phrase that can be ignored when it comes to profit/recruiting, profit/recruiting making money for the company. Even the story of the original $5000 life savings (oops…money given to her by her son). So much for the golden rule.

    1. Lazy Gardens

      “Even the story of the original $5000 life savings (oops…money given to her by her son).” … Oh yes. Such a nice touch of the little widow risking all, or her devoted son offering his all.

      Mary Kay and her 6th husband, George Hallenbeck, had already planned the entire MLM, starting with the business plan and only them looking for a product to offer. Before his death, they had already arranged production, had the packaging and all the rest of the details, and the business location leased. Her startup expenses were behind her.

      And one assumes that she had life insurance on George. (I have not found his will or probate records).

  5. Stephanie

    Mary Kay predators prey on the lonely, outliers who long to belong to a group. I remember being “invited” to a Mary Kay “party”, where you are supposed to buy something.

    I had no money for make-up, I could barely pay rent. But I felt like if I didn’t buy something I would not be invited to another “party” with these women in my church. Well, I couldn’t afford anything. And I didn’t get invited back, and other women did, and they would talk about getting together, others were invited, not me.

    I stopped attending church, because I felt like it was a big sales group, and unless you bought stuff, no one would talk to you at church.

    It goes beyond MLM, and includes real estate, car insurance, I literally felt like everyone at church was there to get a commission on sales.

    1. So true, it’s analogous to any cult operation whose sole purposes are in getting access to your time, money and mind. Sometimes in refusing those who persist, I’ll pass this along to illustrate the parallels of a questionable offering to ‘Kissing Hank’s Ass’ https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fDp7pkEcJVQ
      I’ve seen similar behavior with members of specific denominations and yes, in residential real estate activities (none so far in any commercial real estate venues or on the banking/lending side though).
      Spotting predators and BS from facts is key to survival on all counts. Here too are some articles at this link using ‘business’ via the onsite search engine:
      http://new.exchristian.net/search/?q=business+&submit.x=0&submit.y=0 (The People That Time forgot, Where’s The Product,Susceptible to Con Artists and I Was a Pushy Follower, Not a Loving Leader by Ex-Pastor Dan) are insightful when it comes to those who boldly mix religion with business.

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